150823agent47posterWho would have thought there would be even a hint of the gospel in “Hitman: Agent 47”?

You wouldn’t think a movie based on a violent video game would have much philosophical depth to it. You’d expect it to be little more than wanton violence and mayhem, right?

You’d be wrong.

Surprisingly, the scriptwriters of “Agent 47” gave their story a backbone, a series of intentional, haunting questions the characters wrestle with on screen, questions that tap into some of humanity’s deepest longings. The answers the characters come up with aren’t always biblical, but several of the scenes clearly illustrate the need for the gospel, and sometimes even the gospel itself.

The story begins with a scientist who genetically engineers people, called “agents,” with heightened abilities and suppressed emotions to make them efficient and capable killing machines. But he has a change of heart and goes into hiding, taking the secret to breeding agents with him. Years later, a whole bunch of people are looking for him, including surviving “agents,” a corporation that wants his research for nefarious ends and his long-lost daughter, who has some genetic modifications of her own.

The ultra-violent action flick was unceremoniously dumped at the end of the summer – where most of the failed blockbusters go – and true to expectations, has been almost universally panned by critics. It suffers from the lack of a memorable villain and a division of screen time between two protagonists, neither of which really create the emotional investment an audience needs to care about the characters. The movie also starts the action too quick and is filled with the usual flaws (bad guys can’t shoot straight, for example), but it’s not nearly as bad as the critics are saying.

In fact, the film becomes rather intriguing when you recognize the characters, particularly the long-lost daughter, illustrate the human condition and the need for redemption.

There’s a poignant scene in the film where the daughter is troubled by the memory of this man she once knew and is desperately searching for. The pain, the struggle, the emptiness she feels in not knowing creates a longing in her she just can’t shake. She doesn’t realize, doesn’t even know, the man she’s looking for … is her father.

How like so many in our culture is this daughter? Creation testifies that there is something more, something we’re missing (Romans 1:20), yet so many seem to look everywhere but to God (Acts 17:22-23). They don’t even know that what they’re looking for is our Father (John 17:25-26).

The protagonists in the film also ask questions like, “What am I?” “What makes us human?” and, “Can people change?”

These questions all touch upon the central three questions at the core of the Scriptures and at the core of any person’s worldview, namely, “Who is man?” “Who is God?” and, “What’s the relationship between the two?”

There’s even a protagonist, Agent 47 himself, who has a gospel/messianic moment, claiming he has come to “set [the daughter] free.”

“Your father loves you,” he tells the lost daughter, and assures her (SPOILER ALERT), “He did what any parent would. He dies to save his children.”

The movie also presents a message of redemption, assuring that people can change, even the most monstrous among us.

“Agent 47” muddies the water a bit with its insistence that, “We determine who we are by what we do,” and similar statements that may fall more into line with humanism than a biblical worldview, but then, I’m not suggesting this is a Christian film.

I’m only pointing out that here’s a piece of our culture’s art, a chunk of emotion and recognized need and longing, and we who do know the Father may be encouraged by it to speak love and freedom in the Father to those who need Him most.

And that’s certainly a lot more than I expected to encounter when I went to the theater to review “Hitman: Agent 47.”

Content advisory:

  • “Hitman: Agent 47,” rated R, contains roughly 15 obscenities and profanities, most of which are strong.
  • There are no romantic storylines or sex scenes in the film, though the director did slip in a few shots to objectify the lead actress: Her bare back and hip are seen in a shower, she wears a tank top in a scene that clearly reveals the shape of her breasts and nipples, and she goes for a pointless swim in a bikini. The shots are brief, but completely irrelevant to the plot.
  • The film is abundantly and brutally violent, however, including dozens of stylized scenes of hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, car crashes and so forth. Several of the death scenes include blood splatter.
  • The movie has no overt occult references, but a few religious references, including a character using a hotel Bible to thwart a knife attack, a reference to “playing God” with genetics and a line in the film’s credit song that sings, “Ain’t no God on the streets.” Other, more veiled or metaphorical references to biblical themes are reference in the review above.

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